With school out, kids have a lot of free time on their hands. Instead of having them stay home all summer long, give them an educational vacation! There are hands-on, interactive, and genuinely fun educational experiences that will have kids of all ages learning throughout summer break, whether they know it or not. There’s even educational vacations for adults, including in-depth winery and brewery tours. Make sure that the whole family is having a fun summer, while still learning, in West Michigan.
Vacation + Education in Southern West Michigan
What better way to spend a vacation than by learning how beer is made? Visit Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan’s oldest brewery, and see how they got started during a time when most people didn’t know what an IPA or an Imperial Stout looked like, let alone tasted like. Bell’s Brewery tours are always free at its original location in downtown Kalamazoo and nearby Comstock.
Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings has enough activities this summer to fill your entire schedule. Listen to one of their nature programs, featuring some of Michigan’s brightest minds studying the great outdoors, or take one of their Permaculture Design Courses, where you’ll learn about different agricultural ecosystems. You could even stop by for a walk at your own leisure, experiencing the institute’s 742 acres of land.
Vacation + Education in Central West Michigan
Learn about the American Indian Culture at the Ziibiwing Cultural Center in Mt. Pleasant. Artifacts come to life and educate the tribal community and others about the social and artistic expression of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe ancestors.
Muskegon has plenty of vacation and education to keep you busy this summer. The USS LST 393 is a one-of-a-kind museum inside a landing ship tank. The S.S. Milwaukee Clipper is Muskegon’s original ferry, carrying thousands of passengers and automobiles across Lake Michigan from 1941 to 1970. Tour a restored WWII submarine at the USS Silversides Submarine Museum! Tour passes include access to the Coast Guard Cutter McLane, a rare prohibition era vessel! Rounding out the group is the Hackley & Hume Historic Site. The site envelops you in a unique living space, bringing late 19th century craftsmanship to life. Both kids and adults can learn while enjoying summer vacation in Muskegon!
Mecosta County has two area libraries to help your kids continue learning this summer. Each has a variety of books, computers, and events that you can take advantage of while school is out. There’s no better way to spend these summer months than cuddled up with an interesting book!
Ottawa County Parks in West Olive offers educational nature programming to people of all ages, in every season of the year. Residents and county visitors are more than welcome to participate in these programs to learn more about the area’s natural features, local wildlife, history, all while exploring the great outdoors. Over the summer, they offer regularly scheduled Wildflower Walks, Star Gazing, Dune Hikes, and both Birding and Kayak Field Trips. A variety of summer camps are also available for children ages three to 14. Ottawa County Parks is committed to offering these programs free or at a very low cost so they can be enjoyed by everyone.
Vacation + Education in Northern West Michigan
The Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay strives to provide a healthy mix of vacation and education. They have a variety of educational programs with dates throughout the summer and into the fall. Programs include Astronomy Under Sail, Great Lakes Discovery Sail, Fishes of Lake Michigan, and more. The association’s mission is to provide cool learning experiences on the Great Lakes, making them the perfect place to find both a fun vacation and educational enrichment.
The S.S. City of Milwaukee, based out of Manistee, is officially open for tours! You and your family will love spending time on the water while listening to the history of the 1930s carferry. New this year are mini/speed tours for those who have limited time or small children. These are only 30 minutes long, and allow for a complete tour with as much time spent on the history. Overnight rides on the boat start the first weekend of June, giving visitors a unique bed and breakfast in addition to everything that Manistee has to offer.
The Mackinac State Historic Parks are filled with history, making them the perfect place to bring the whole family this summer. Start at Fort Mackinac, where you can visit this authentic Revolutionary War-era fort, which started construction in 1780 by the British. Just below the fort is the Mackinac Art Museum, filled with timeless works of art and photography telling the story of the island. Making your way to Mackinaw City, visit Colonial Michilimackinac. This reconstruction of a British fort and fur trading village is based on decades of research. One of the oldest industrial complexes on the Great Lakes, Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, awaits you with live demonstrations at the water-powered sawmill.
Mackinaw City is often considered a living classroom, giving families the chance to see some of the state’s oldest and most interesting history. The Straits of Mackinac is home to an Underwater Preserve, a 148-square-mile area extending from Wilderness State Park along the Lake Michigan shoreline to the Cheboygan area on Lake Huron. The preserve is the final resting place for 12 marked shipwrecks, with additional sites in the shallows near shore. See what you can learn in one of Michigan’s most unique places.
Whether you’re a wine lover, an expert, or novice, Bonobo Winery in Traverse City is the perfect place to educate yourself on northern Michigan wines and vines. Sign up for a VIP Wine Tasting and Tour Experience at Bonobo for $30 to learn all about the inner workings of Bonobo’s wine practices. This educational, yet enjoyable, experience will give you a whole new appreciation for wine.
Join Chateau Chantal in Traverse City for a three-course wine educational lunch tour. Lunch begins promptly at noon with a tour of the wine cellar will starting at 1pm. This is a great way to enjoy some wine education while experiencing a delicious meal and winery tour.
Marquette’s Northern Michigan University has plenty of opportunities for kids of all ages to explore and learn this summer. Their programs include weekly Summer College for Kids programs to Cyber Camp and Environmental Science Camp. There’s a camp for every kid this summer in Marquette.
Earl Young, Ernest Hemingway, and Al Capone have all spent time in Charlevoix. The area has many exhibits looking back at key industries and how these businesses impacted Michigan and the United States. Charlevoix is also famous for their one-of-a-kind Hobbit House, which you can see on a walking tour. Whether you are just driving thru, staying a week, or vacationing there for the summer, there are many exciting adventures awaiting you in Charlevoix.
The Oliver Art Center in Frankfort is hosting a series of classes to keep your creative juices flowing. Classes range from creating copper enamel jewelry and silkscreen printing to kids activities for the entire family. Whatever art project you’re looking to undertake this summer, get some help from the Oliver Art Center at one of their summer classes. Visit their website for a full list of offerings.
2017 Educational Vacations
If you love science books and have a good sense of humor, don’t miss Mary Roach when she visits the National Writers Series in Traverse City on Wednesday, June 7th. Roach’s style walks the line between popular science and humor. Famous authors from across the country flock to Traverse City as part of the National Writers Series, giving you plenty of opportunities to see some of the brightest minds in books speak and answer questions.
Saskatoon Golf in Alto hosts Junior Golf Lessons and Leagues, perfect for any beginner, intermediate, or advanced player looking to hone their skills. The Junior League begins on Monday, June 12th, with players required to be familiar with golf basics and etiquette. The 9-week league places teams in a bracket to see who can come out on top. Enroll your kids in these lessons or leagues today to see if they have what it takes to rule the green!
The Tri-Cities Historical Museum in Grand Haven is offering free activities every day this summer, each designed to challenge and stimulate brains of every age. Each day is a different challenge, ranging from trivia to scavenger hunt style riddles. Come back every week for something new to do at the museum.
Check out the Creative Chocolate Class now being offered by Chocolates by Grimaldi in Grand Haven. Designed to cater to your sweeter, more artistic side, the 90-minute class is an adventure that you’ll want to be sure to add to your schedule. You will have the opportunity to learn about chocolate while socializing with friends, family, and other chocolate enthusiasts. Classes are available June 17th, 22nd, and 30th.
The Downtown Market in Grand Rapids is hosting their Kids in the Market classes throughout the month of July. Bring the kids in every Wednesday for a series of weekly activities, arts, crafts, and educational opportunities. Hosts include the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Critter Barn, bringing their own special twist to the event. Visit the market each week for something new and exciting!
Kids Day at Nelis’ Dutch Village in Holland showcases both the village’s exhilarating rides and community outreach on Saturday, June 24th. Kids will love the petting zoo, challenging games, and fun Dutch rides. Community firemen, police, and EMT will be standing by to meet with kids, giving them a chance to climb aboard their vehicles. You can even receive free admission with donation of supplies at the door!
How much do you know about pairing cheese with cider? Learn from the best when you visit Virtue Cider in Fennville for their Cheese and Cider Pairing Workshop on Sunday, June 11th. When the perfect pairing of cheese and cider is achieved, they form flavorful complexity and variation on earthy, buttery, nutty textures, aromas, and flavors. Learn how Virtue Cider can best complement a variety of locally and regionally curated cheeses.
Located near the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan in a historic Carnegie Library, the South Haven Center for the Arts offers visual and hands-on creative experiences in the form of changing exhibitions, art classes, and special programs. Their ArtQuest program gives creative time to kids while parents enjoy a long lunch or stroll through town. Classes are offered on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11am to 1pm, June 13th through September 1st. The cost is $25 per class for each child, ages five to ten.
The Playing at the Spray Plaza children’s music and entertainment series in Downtown Hastings provides children with an opportunity to learn while having fun from 11am to 11:45am each Thursday from June 15th to August 31st. This year’s lineup includes visits from the John Ball Zoo, Kalamazoo Reptiles, and South American entertainer Andres, who uses his music to introduce children to another language and culture.
The Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph has an exhibit this month that features artists from all over Michiana called the Michiana Annual Art Competition. The Michiana Annual Art Competition is a local juried fine art exhibition intended to recognize, foster, and reward excellence of top artists in Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana. In its 15th year, the event showcases the best in photography, digital imaging, mixed media, painting, drawing, glass, sculptures, and ceramics.
There’s more than enough going on at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven to get your kids excited about education this summer. The Pirate Chaser Sail on June 15th is an hour and half sail aboard the tall ship Friends Good Will as the young and old capture pirates and keep the harbor safe. On June 17th, the 36th Annual Antique & Classic Boat Show celebrates Harborfest by showing off the building, restoration, and use of classic boats and small craft. The museum’s newest exhibit, Lake Michigan’s Call to Duty in WWII, is all about the vast mobilization for war embraced was by the people of the Lake Michigan during WWII. Whether you’re visiting for an event or the new exhibit, the Michigan Maritime Museum is sure to be very popular with your family.
This summer, children between the ages of three and seven can explore the W.K Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in Augusta. The sanctuary’s Wild Wednesdays series includes Bees! What’s the Buzz? on June 14th, Trumpeter Swans! on June 28th, Froggy Fun on July 12th, and Wonder Walk About on July 26th. Each program is from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, and is sure to be a hit with your kids!
Drop into Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort in Augusta every Wednesday for a half hour group lesson from their PGA pros, five holes of golf, and happy hour food and drinks during their 5-Hole Happy Hour! Cost is only $20 per week, and you’ll even receive a league member card with perks that you can use on golf, food, and drink all summer long.
Find the perfect blend of vacation and education in Marshall. Spend a day at Cornwell’s Turkeyville, where there’s always a fun-filled event or activity that your kids won’t want to miss. They’re hosting their Bounce into Summer event on Saturday, June 3rd with a bounce room, obstacle course, relay race, and more. If you’re looking for something more educational, bring the whole family to Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. The park is open every day and has an authentic African exhibit where you can even feed giraffes!
The Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo is hosting piano camps in the summer and a series of concerts through the fall. Their piano camps at Sherman Lake give piano players of all skill levels the chance to hone their skills. Both a day and overnight camp are offered in July, each concluding with a final recital for friends and family. Campers can come back during the fall to see pianists from all over the world perform during the festival’s 2017-18 concert season.